WILLIAMSBURG — Bacon, one of several pigs being raised by Williamsburg Elementary School students, will soon become his namesake.
It’s no surprise to the students, Audra McCurdy, agriculture enrichment instructor and West Franklin Learning Center teacher, said.
“The whole purpose is to teach them so they understand where their food comes from and how it’s raised and the importance agriculture plays in that,” McCurdy said.
At the elementary school, 140 N. Louisa St., Williamsburg, kindergarten through fifth grade students spend half an hour each week learning in-depth about agriculture. The West Franklin Learning Center students also get in on the lessons, McCurdy, a seventh-year teacher in the West Franklin school district, said.
Along with Bacon, students also are tending to a couple of calves, pigs, and chicks, she said.
“Last March at our ag fair, we hatched some baby chicks. We got eight little baby chicks to come out so they’re not full grown so we are hoping within the next month or so, they’ll start laying eggs... so we are pretty excited about that. We’ve kind of seen that whole process full circle which is kind of neat.”
On Friday, students completed making their own biscuit pizzas, complete with sauce made from vegetables in the Williamsburg gardens and sausage from one of their former pigs, McCurdy said. The West Franklin Learning Center students usually help get all the ingredients prepared, she said.
“They do a lot of processing of those kinds of things that are a little more labor-intensive because I have more time with them,” McCurdy said. “Unfortunately, the elementary kids, they only get about a half hour of class each week and it’s just not enough time to do a lot of that so my kids do some of the prep work for the Ag Enrichment class if it’s going to be something food-related.”
Students have also produced apple crisps this year, made from apples harvested from a local orchard, McCurdy said.
“We made apple crisps so the kids could kind of get an idea that you can make things from apples instead of just having to buy a dessert purchased,” she said. “They thought it was really good.”
As for the rest of the school year, students are going to have a lot on their plate — literally.
McCurdy said students raised wheat at the school this summer and will grind that into flour to make pretzels this fall. Students will also pop some of the sorghum growing in front of the school, she said.
“They are going to pop sorghum like you pop popcorn,” she said.
Students also are set to learn about cotton, sorghum and sunflower seeds throughout the year, she said.
“We are going to match some of the different products you find at the store with those crops,” McCurdy said.
After being around agriculture her entire life, McCurdy said the program is a great experience in the classroom.
“These kids are really fortunate that they get to do animals and gardens and an introduction to where their food comes from,” she said. “I think it’s a blessing they get that opportunity.
“It’s a great opportunity for them, no matter what they go into someday in their future, at least they’ll have that background knowledge and be able to share that with some others too.”
And it’s an experience she’s happy so many students get to share.
“I’ve always taught ag to my learning center students, but last year we started the Ag Enrichment program [with] the elementary students so they could get a part of that too,” McCurdy said.
“Basically it’s teaching ag in the classroom. They encourage every kind of teacher, whether you’re social studies, science, math, English, it doesn’t matter, to try to include agriculture in your classroom, whether it be writing or math activities or history activities, whatever it happens to be.”
For her efforts teaching agriculture to hundreds of eager students, McCurdy, along with Central Heights’ Cortney Kinyon, won the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation Agriculture Excellence in Teaching Award, Brady Anshutz, Williamsburg Elementary School teacher, said.
“The award, I just applied it for this summer ... ” McCurdy said. “They can either give me a scholarship to go to the national Ag in the Classroom conference next summer or a stipend for my classroom.
“I had already been asked to present at the national conference for Ag in the Classroom next summer, so I think I’ll just use the scholarship to go to help with that. Also I can learn different ideas, techniques and ways of teaching ag in the classroom while I’m there.”
McCurdy is set to travel to Phoenix, Arizona, next summer for the weeklong conference, she said.
“I’m eager to learn more techniques on how to teach ag in the classroom because I’m teaching elementary kids so I’m hoping to learn — because I teach kindergarten through fifth grade — how to modify some of the lessons for the different ages,” she said. “The older ones can obviously handle more but the younger ones, I have to kind of modify it so I’m not expecting too much out of them. I’m excited about that.”
The ag enrichment program at Williamsburg started during the 2013 school year with donated animals cared for by students, according to Herald archives. Since then, the class has evolved into a weekly, half-hour long session where students learn about Kansas crops and animals.
Kate Shelton is a Herald staff writer. Email her at email@example.com Follow her on Twitter at @kshelton323